The Lod District Court nixed the confession earlier Tuesday of the Jewish minor accused of involvement in the arson the Dormition Abbey in February 2016.

Price tag attack on Dormition Abbey church
Price tag attack Dormition Abbey church 390. (photo credit: Courtesy Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Ho)


Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan asked units responsible for probing police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) misconduct to investigate their conduct toward a Jewish minor whose confession was disqualified by a court on Tuesday being as coerced.

The Lod District Court nixed the confession earlier Tuesday of the Jewish minor accused of involvement in the arson the Dormition Abbey in February 2016.

However, Erdan’s request to a special Justice Ministry unit to probe the Shin Bet is nearly impossible right now as that unit has been leaderless since its head, Jana Modgavrishvili stepped down nearly four months ago, the Jerusalem Post has learned.

Previously, the Post exclusively reported that attempts to hire a replacement for Modgavrishvili were drawing out far longer than expected, though it was unclear if the issue was an inability to find the right candidate or indifference toward the unit.

Modgavrishvili was the first head of the unit within the Justice Ministry, which was moved out of the Shin Bet for the first time in 2014 despite opposition by the security agency.

It is unclear if opposition has held up appointing a new chief for the unit, which itself lacks sufficient manpower to vet its cases without falling sometimes two to three years behind.

Questioned about whether Erdan knew that he had recommended the Justice Ministry unit deal with the Shin Bet when the unit has been leaderless for four months, a spokesman for Erdan seemed caught off guard about the situation.

A justice ministry spokeswoman said she did not know when a new head of the unit would be selected despite assurances nearly two months before that there would be a new unit head imminently.

Earlier, lawyer Itamar Ben Gvir proclaimed victory over law enforcement and slammed what he said were coercive tactics in which undercover agents were used against the minor while in detention in Akko.

“This is a great day for Israeli democracy,” he said.

According to Ben Gvir, the undercover agents posing as prisoners threatened the minor, tried to starve him and otherwise went beyond permitted trickery tactics to obtain confessions.

The state prosecution said it was evaluating its options, which could include appealing, seeking to bring the minor to trial using other evidence beyond his confession or dropping the case.

The minor was arrested as part of a wave of arrests of Jewish activists following the July 2015 Duma murders of the Palestinian Dawabshe family.

According to the indictment, some combination of the the minor and two others were involved in: the torching of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem in February 2016, the attack of a Palestinian shepherd next to Kochav Shachar in the West Bank, the torching of a Palestinian taxi in Kafr Yussuf, the burning of a warehouse in Aqraba, and two incidents in which the tires of dozens of Palestinian cars were slashed in east Jerusalem.

It appeared that the updated charges against the minor whose confession was nullified by the court on Tuesday mostly related to the Dormition Abbey and price tag activities.

In addition to that February arson, three minors ages 15-16 were indicted in late January 2016 for writing anti-Christian graffiti on the Dormition Abbey Christian holy site and other parts of the Via Dolorosa holy path on January 16-17, 2016.

The graffiti included the words “May his name be obliterated,” “Death to the heathen Christians the enemies of Israel” and “Go to hell,” several other disgraceful messages and were crudely scrawled in red ink on the compound’s walls, drawing international condemnation.

Due to the defendants’ ages, their identities remain under gag order.

They were charged with destroying property based on hostile religious motivations and with harming religious sensitivities.

Later Thursday, Ben Gvir was back to slamming the Shin Bet when the agency issued an announcement that it would prevent three minors arrested on Sunday in a new Jewish terror cell investigation from meeting with Ben Gvir and other lawyers until at least Friday.

He said that “the Shin Bet has learned nothing” from court decisions against it earlier Tuesday and from the separate Duma case.

Though generally suspects have the right to consult a lawyer, especially minors, in security cases, the courts permit the Shin Bet a longer period of time to question suspects without such access.

There were no allegations yet of the Shin Bet using enhanced interrogation on the suspects, but it did use those methods in 2015 on the alleged Duma Jewish terror conspirators.

The Shin Bet’s use of enhanced interrogation in the Duma case led to some confessions being disqualified by the trial court, though others were accepted by the court and the prosecution says it still expects to convict the defendants.

Whether enhanced interrogation might be used will depend on whether the suspects cooperate, and if they do not, whether the Shin Bet can convincingly argue that they need to unravel more aspects of the cell to stop further attacks.

In recent weeks in particular there have been a number of price tag vandalism incidents in Judea and Samaria which are unsolved to date.

Moreover, on October 13, a Palestinian woman named Aysha Ravi was hit by rocks while driving her car near the Tapuah Barrier in the West Bank and was killed.

Ravi was driving her car with her husband beside her and was injured when the stones struck her head.

She was taken to the hospital where she later died.

There was testimony from the Palestinian side that Jewish rock throwers had been involved, but no one had been caught to date.

Late Tuesday night, Honenu said that around 400 right-wing activists protested near the house of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to try to get her to intervene on behalf of the three minors currently being questioned by the Shin Bet.

Shaked told the Jerusalem Post that she had spoken to State Attorney Shai Nitzan and declared that she expected that the rights of the minors would be preserved, including their right to consult with lawyers.

The justice minister added that since she is not updated on the investigation itself, she has no direct authority to intervene.

Unlike Monday’s protest outside the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court which led to fighting with the police, at press time the protest near Shaked’s house was continuing in an orderly fashion.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post